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Reciting a chapter, every day

Reciting a chapter, every day
Each year, the 31-day-long Swasthani Vrata begins on the day Purnima (the full moon of Pausha, the ninth month of the Nepali calendar) and ends on the Purnima of the next month (Magha). This period falls between January and February, the coldest days of a year in Nepal. The Swasthani Vratakatha, recited during this period, has 31 chapters. Reading a chapter every evening, devotees can complete the recital of the whole book within this period. Mentioned many times in the book, the following is the procedure for the Swasthani Vrata (fast) and the Puja. One should begin the Vrata on Pausha Purnima by parrying their nails a day before, take bath and cleanse oneself early morning, remain solely devoted to Sri Swasthani and also worship Lord Mahadeva each noon. Every evening, a person in a family should recite the story and others should listen to it with great devotion. At the beginning and the end of each chapter, generally each evening, the reader and the audience should offer water, flowers and fruits to the goddess with great respect. One can observe the Vrata and recite the story even if s/he is all alone, taking inanimate objects as the audience.

On Magha Purnima, the concluding day of the Vrata, 108 pieces of Janai (the sacred thread), betelnut fruit, betel leaf, home-made Selroti, Akshata (rice grains), bellyflower and other flowers, barley grains, sesame seeds, sandalwood, papaya, sugarcane and various types of fruits and other items are offered. The symbol ‘Om’ is painted on a copper plate and Shivalinga installed on it, a sesame oil-fed cotton lamp lit, each of these sprinkled with waters from sacred rivers, fruits and coins are offered. Janai, Sindoor (the red vermillion powder) and other ingredients mentioned above are also offered to the goddess.

Per the holy book, Lord Mahadeva has instructed devotees to worship him along with Sri Swasthani. The devotee reads some Sanskrit hymns dedicated to the goddess, thanking her for successful completion of the penance. The book has instructed giving eight of the 108 pieces of Selroti, Akshata, bellyflower, Janai (the sacred thread), betelnut fruits to the husband, the son in the absence of husband, to the son of Mit ( a very close friend bound by some oath), etc. If no one is around, these offerings should be flown into a river praying for the fulfillment of the wish s/he had in mind. The keeper of the Vrata is supposed to eat the 100 pieces of Selroti and remain awake throughout the night, meditating. Even poor people can observe the Vrata, the scripture points. It states that one can even take sand as puja materials and regard inanimate objects as their audience. The Vrata is supposed to bring good health to devotees suffering from diseases. It points how Chandrawati, a queen, who had fallen into misfortunes after disrespecting Goddess Swasthani, regained her health and fortunes. On a positive note, people breathing their last within six months beginning from Magha are considered lucky. It is believed that their soul goes to Swarga, the heaven. Scriptures point that the soul has to cross mega rivers and different tough terrains before liberation. Per scriptures, of these rivers, the river named Vaitarani is the most difficult to cross and it can be crossed only with the help of a cow. That is why a cow is gifted to the priest during rituals. The very cow is supposed to help the dead ones cross the river. In the month of Magha in particular, rainfall is quite rare. This makes seasonal rivers shrink and even dry out, making them easily crossable. The scripture has suggested chanting the glory of Sri Swathani, singing and dancing on the concluding night of the Vrata. Depending on physical health, one may just remain awake, seated and remember Sri Swasthani with deep devotion in their heart. Thus concludes the penance, but not without proper disposal of the remains of the ritual to a suitable place.